The chief of police in Burlington, Vermont, is praising an officer for remembering his surroundings in a very tense situation over the weekend, which involved a pulled weapon and a dangerously close call with a fleeing suspect.
“I call the video an example of courage and restraint,” Chief Brandon del Pozo said of footage recorded Saturday from the body camera worn by Corporal Mike Hemond.
The point-of-view footage shows Hemond drawing his service handgun, near sidewalks crowded with people and customers dining al fresco.
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Hemond was trying to catch up with a fleeing man who was accused of robbing someone of cash and a gift card just minutes earlier.
According to police documents filed with the court in Burlington, Andrew Lavallee, 31, bailed from his car during the officer’s traffic stop attempt, so Hemond started pursuing him on foot.
Lavallee allegedly doubled back to his car, got into the vehicle, and took off. Hemond continued the pursuit on foot.
The body camera footage shows the driver throwing his car in reverse, then coming dangerously close to clipping the cop before ignoring orders to stop. The vehicle is then seen in the video speeding away.
After that encounter in the busy intersection of Lake Street and College Street, investigators said the suspect took off toward Main Street, before he ditched his car in a parking garage.
Other officers said they caught up with Lavallee, who lives in Burlington, as he tried to hail a cab. They arrested him and he was lodged in jail for the remainder of the weekend.
At a court hearing Monday in Burlington, Lavallee pled not guilty to four criminal charges, including aggravated assault with a weapon — the car.
Court paperwork said Hemond feared for his own safety and for the safety of pedestrians when the car backed toward him and was driven erratically.
Lavallee, who police records show has more than a dozen prior convictions in Vermont, is now jailed without bail.
“[Cpl. Hemond] had just seconds to figure something out in very dangerous circumstances,” del Pozo told necn Tuesday. “And did it in a way that makes the city and the police department proud.”
The chief praised the officer for considering, under intense pressure, the potential risk to all the people on the street Saturday when we held back from firing his gun. The choice to not shoot showed Hemond’s mindfulness of his surroundings and care for his community, del Pozo said.
In a twist, Chief del Pozo said it turns out Lavallee and the officer in the body camera footage once had a much more positive relationship.
“That officer — Corporal Hemond — he drove this suspect to drug court at one point, to try to keep him out of trouble; keep him off his addiction,” del Pozo said. “And he was repaid by almost getting run over. It shows just what a difficult time we’re facing with opioids.”
Investigators said before leading the officer on the chase, Lavallee robbed a victim of credit cards, $700 in U.S. currency, $203 in Canadian currency, and a gift card with a more than $500 balance.
The victim told detectives he had planned to meet up with Lavallee to purchase store gift cards for less than their actual value.
According to details revealed in court paperwork, the victim said he was knocked to the ground before the theft, but that he was not injured. He told officers he was afraid that Lavallee might have been armed.
According to police, Lavallee said in an interview with detectives that he ran because he knew there were active warrants issued for his arrest, including allegations of possession of stolen property and possession of heroin.
Necn asked Lavallee’s defense attorney, Sara Puls, about the accusations against her client, and the content of the newly-released body camera footage.
Puls declined to comment on the case at this time.